Monday, October 31, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Happy Halloween!  

Unfortunately I have to work tonight.  Sad face.

Fortunately, that means I have an excuse to bring my coworkers treats.  

I wanted to mix a trick and a treat for these cookies.  The trick being played on Jim in the form of the house smelling strongly of peanut butter.  The treat, obviously, is my favorite Halloween treat, Reese's, pressed into the middle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cajun Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Jim and I carved pumpkins the other day.  

I know I give Jim a hard time a lot, in and out of the blog, but he told me that he's only carved pumpkins maybe twice before in his life.  How does that happen?  

So, needless to say, I bought two big pumpkins and imposed my Halloween spirit on him, once again.  

Now for those who don't know, Jim is a Wake Forest grad.  For those of you who are like me out there, you may have never heard of that school before.  Well apparently it's a pretty big deal and we need to educate ourselves.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Pumpkin Buttercream

So obviously I've mentioned my love of Halloween.  Clearly I also love candy, as a God-fearing, born and raised American child must.  I know we talked a little bit about my love of candy corn specifically last time, but I'd like to expand on some of these important topics.

First off, my near-irrational love of Halloween.  Where does it come from?  It probably stems from a few things.  Yes, I love the general spookiness and I love a good scare...that's obvious from the numerous times I've mentioned zombie movies.  And I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I've been dragging Jim along through a scary movie marathon until Halloween night.  This can't be normal, I know.  But I can't help it, I love it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies with Browned Butter Icing

I know that my usual blog posts are pretty light on hot-button topics for heated discussions.  But all that's about to change, are you ready?

Candy corn.

It's a divisive issue.  You either love it or you hate it.  There is no in-between.  I've even heard people spread vicious lies about poor candy corn...rumors like "all the candy corn that exists was made in the 1930's".  I don't think that's even possible. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pulled Pork and Baked Beans

As Jim calls it, the complete redneck meal.  
Here in Georgia it's only tolerable outside for about three (blissful) weeks out of the year.  Those weeks just so happen to almost always fall in the month of October.  One of many reasons why it's my favorite month.

Jim and I decided to take full advantage of that fact by eating dinner outside on the deck.  What better way to pass a crisp beautiful still somewhat warm college football Saturday in the fall?  There is none, my friend.  

And what better meal for such a day than pulled pork from the slow cooker and baked beans?  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sugo and Meatballs

I've been on a mission recently.  A family cookbook related mission.  I've been trying to collect all the favorite recipes from our families and put together a cookbook by Christmas time.  I've gotten quite a few good ones.

One of my most sought-after recipes is the "sugo" which I believe is Italian for "slam banging pasta sauce".  The women of my family each make their own variation of this recipe...each has its own unique taste.  I can close my eyes and distinctly remember the taste of my Grandma Ginger's spaghetti, as well as my Aunt Helena's, my Nana's, and of course, my own mom's.  Each perfect in its own right.  There is a particularly surprising secret ingredient to one of those sauces that I discovered through my recipe-requesting...but you'll have to read the book for that little gem.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No-Rise Honey Wheat Biscuits

So today has brought me several little miracles.  I'd love to share them with you.  

First, today was our first actually cool day here in Georgia.  It was wonderful.  It gave me hope of an actual fall season, of leaves that might actually change colors before dropping off, of jack-o-lanterns that can sit on the porch for a week without caving in and rotting.

And what's better in cold weather than honey wheaty yeasty comfort bread?  

Not much, friends, not much. 

And what's that you say, they don't even need time to rise?  Boom.  Miracle.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taking Some Time Off

It's not that I haven't been's just that I haven't been baking anything new.

I made an apple pie, it turned out great.  I made chicken and dumplings...old news.  I made that sausage pasta I was talking about awhile ago.  Delicious, but it's been done.

Truth is, I'm still recovering from my time in Kansas City.  It was awesome, the weather was perfect, but I don't think I got more than five hours of sleep on any night during my trip.  That's ok.  I got by on pure adrenaline.

So yes, it's a little bit lame and a little bit of a cop out, but instead of recipes and food photos, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite places and things to eat in KC.

First off, let's talk barbecue.  We're known for it.  I never appreciated KC barbecue until I left.  Now, boy do I ever.  There are two schools of barbecue in Kansas City as far as I'm concerned.  High end and low end.  For our high end, we had Fiorella's Jack Stack cater the rehearsal dinner.

Specifically, we had "burnt ends" which are a KC specialty.  This is not my photo.  You can tell because it's great.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wedding Accomplished

Thus ends my hiatus from the blog.  I have had the craziest yet most enjoyable week of my whole life.  All the work and planning that I (and others) did to make that wedding happen was completely worth it.  I can honestly say that it was the best day of my life, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  (Except for my mom spilling coffee on her legs an hour before the ceremony...ow!)

My wonderful Nana (that's what Italian kids call their grammas) and aunt spent the week leading up to the wedding baking all the various types of heavenly traditional Italian wedding cookies.  I had an entire cookie bar at my wedding.  It was PERFECT.  They went like hotcakes.  It's an awesome tradition, get on board.  I haven't gotten the pictures back yet from all the photographers, but here are a few that I managed to snag before they were demolished (which happened before we even arrived).

Here we have the fig I've said before they symbolize the badge of honor in my family, only the most skilled and deftest bakers are allowed to make them each Christmas.  I have yet to ascend to the Fig Cookie Echelon, just to be clear.  The others are what I have incorrectly dubbed "Italian Chocolate Spice Cookies", which though descriptive, isn't what they should be called.  My Nana and aunt both told me they are "Tatus", so I guess I was wrong.  They are incredibly delicious and my re-diet is just going to have to wait until I've finished gobbling them all down.

Much to my chagrin I still haven't gotten these recipes yet, despite many efforts.  They just aren't written down.  I'm pretty sure they're a collaborative effort, measured in handfuls of this, pinches of that, and improvised along the way.  Which I both admire and think is amazing, however, I am terrified that if I don't get my hands on some sort of recipe, these little beauties will disappear, and with them, a little bit of my culture, upbringing, and soul.  We can't let this happen.  I promise I'll keep working on it.

In other news, after careful consideration and a few food-related binges I have decided NOT to abandon the diet just because the wedding is over.

I look and feel so much better now than I did in March...I don't want to lose that.  However, my goals are going to shift from losing weight to maintaining and toning what I have.  Also, I hope to successfully quit calorie counting, because, though effective, it can become tedious after so long.

So in effect, my wedding was a total success, a foodstravaganza complete with cookie bar, and breathtakingly perfect in every way.  All my love to all the friends and family who made it so.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Root Beer Float Cake

You may notice something different about this post.  No, that is not my dream kitchen's granite countertop and classy backsplash.  No, I never think to buy cute-as-a-bug's-ear paper plates.  No, my indoor lighting is never this good in my normal pictures.  That's because this is my very first official on the road post!  We are smack dab in the middle of wedding week.  It is officially upon us.  I'm baking in my home away from home, aka Dad's house.  It doesn't hurt that Dad just so happens to be a master electrician, thus the awesome lighting.

Someday I want to be cool enough at my job to have the word "master" in front of my title.  I think that's how you know you've arrived.  Also, I want to be able to do something as practical and amazing as installing my own crazy nice kitchen lighting.  I guess I'll just have to settle for being able to make a root bear float cake.

Root beer, because there's root beer in the cake part.  Get it?  Simple yet effective.

This is a four ingredient cake.  I just showed you two of them.  No joke.  To make the cake, pour a root beer in the cake mix and stir it around.  Bam.

Bake it at 350 in two 8'' round cake pans.  Make sure they're greased thoroughly.  Bake 18-20 minutes.

When the cake is completely cooled, transfer one of the layers to a cake plate.  Wash out the pan that you baked the layer in, and then line it with wax paper.  Press half a container of vanilla bean ice cream into the cake pan to make the ice cream layer.  Refreeze the ice cream for about a half hour.  Did you just now realize this is an ice cream cake?  Because it is.  That's right.  My first two layer cake was an ice cream cake.  Thank you.  

Use the wax paper to remove the ice cream from the pan, placing it on the bottom later of cake.  Top with the second layer of cake, wrap the whole thin in plastic wrap, and allow to freeze completely for 3ish hours or over night.

Use one 8oz container of Cool Whip to ice the whole thing.  Cover (I used my stepmom's awesome cake globe(?)...I need to get one.  Put it back in the freezer for about a half hour, or however long until you serve it.  

Ice cream cake.  Easy, root-beery, 4 ingredients.  Boom.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Italian Sausage and Peppers Penne

So I'm playing it a little fast and loose with my pasta intake levels, so what?  Pasta is what makes life worth living.  Some may disagree, but when I get out of bed in the morning (on what is my "Monday") at 5am (yeah, that early) and it's actually cold (44 degrees) for the first time since last winter (no joke), it's the thought of the pasta I'm planning for dinner that gives me the strength to go to work for ten hours.

No, it's not baked.  No, it's not dessert.  I know, you're surprised.  Frankly I am too.  I thought for sure I would have told you about pumpkin cookies by now.  But that's for later.  

My favorite ingredient to add to pastas lately?  Spinach.  It's brilliant, delicious, filling, and healthies-up  whatever you're planning on indulging in.  Lately my favorite omgimstarvinganditsonlytwooclock snack is, you guessed it, spinach salad.  Throw some blueberries on there, it's a treat.  It helps if you like straight balsamic (or any other kind of) vinegar.  Sick, I know.  But I save a TON of calories by leaving out the oil.  Who needs it anyway, am I right? 

But we're talking about pasta.  With my pizza topping of choice, sausage.  I don't know how many of you out there are Italian, but in my family we make a simple yet delicious dish which consists of Italian sausage, potatoes, peppers, and onions, baked in a casserole dish.  So simple, so good.  Here's my pasta-version.

Italian Sausage and Peppers Penne

12 oz penne pasta
1.25 lb hot Italian turkey sausage
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/4 cup parmesan
8 oz fresh spinach
1 medium onion chopped
6 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Boil a pot of salted water.  Add the pasta, cook according to instructions for "al dente" or 10ish minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup starchy water and then drain the penne, set aside.

While water is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add garlic, onion, and peppers.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes.  

Remove sausage casings and discard.  Add sausage to veggie mixture, breaking it up and cooking until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.

Once sausage is finished cooking, Add spinach, cooking and stirring until wilted.  Return penne to the pot it was boiled in, add the sausage mixture.  Add parmesan cheese and starchy water.  Stir until mixed and coated thoroughly, serve immediately.

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